I can not say I am an expert on the subject of farm wives. My mother was a farm wife. Growing up, about half of my neighbors were farm wives and after 19 years of marriage, my spouse certainly qualifies as a farm wife.
Having established that I am not an expert on farm wives, but that I do have a fair amount of first hand knowledge, I will attempt to give my perspective, knowing that I could be completely off base.
My mother was a typical farm wife. While the farmer received the glory, it was his wife who was there keeping the kids going, preparing meals and doing those less-than-glorious and obvious chores that needed to be done – laundry, dusting, plus anything else, frequently on a moment’s notice.
It was an important part of everyday life, but does lack recognition in its importance.
My parents had more than 50 years of marriage and I believe they always thought they were meant to be together. Was it a perfect marriage? No, and my mother would be one of the first to say it was not.
Was it a good marriage? Yes, both my parents would agree with that.
While my mother was like most farm wives who performed most of their duties behind the scenes, she did not resent what needed to be done. She saw herself as my dad’s helpful mate and companion.
My dad saw himself as the provider and it was my mother’s assignment to make sure he was able to provide. He took care of the farm. She took care of the farmer.
My dad was a good, generous, hard-working man, but that does not mean he was easy to live with, especially during the 1950s when he was expanding his livestock operation. He immersed himself in his work and the farm work came first. Trips to town for groceries and anything else were saved for rainy days.
All in all, it was a good life for everyone in our family.
My mother had been a country school teacher before she married and teaching was in her heart.
After my sisters and I had left home she returned to teaching, doing what she enjoyed most.
Many farm wives went to work in town for the steady pay and benefits, such as health care.
While my parents were typical of many farmers and farm wives, we like to recall those habits they had because it set them apart.
A favorite memory is when having company while sitting at the kitchen table, my dad would lift his coffee cup up to about eye level signifying he needed a refill. My mother would rise to her feet and immediately refill it, never saying a word.
With his cup refilled, my dad would keep visiting with whoever was at the table. They were good at communicating without saying a word.
A more liberated generation would tell Dad to get his own coffee, but it was part of their routine.
Once in a while my wife will raise her coffee cup up to eye level and look in my direction. I know the cue and I walk over to the coffee pot and refill her cup and usually mine while I am at it. Then we both laugh.
Any marriage has its give-and-take with both partners wanting to make sure the other is provided with whatever they are in need of. It is not a competitive event with one winning and therefore, one losing.
I am sure my mother had her moments of frustration with my dad who enjoyed being in charge. Most of the time, it worked better that way.
Especially when she had a project she needed assistance with whether it was at home, school or church, and my dad knew what to do get the job done.
My mother passed away six years ago and my dad has been gone almost 13 years. Not many days go by that I do not think about them.
With Mother’s Day approaching it is a good time to remember what she and other farm wives have contributed to life both on and off the farm. Being a farm wife brings its own special problems and it also has its own special rewards. My mother would agree with that, too.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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